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Hostile environment to stay until at least 2022, Priti Patel’s ‘improvement plan’ suggests

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 30 September 2020 16:57 BST
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Priti Patel had vowed to 'fix' problems with laws - but now appears to kick reform into the long grass
Priti Patel had vowed to 'fix' problems with laws - but now appears to kick reform into the long grass (PA)

The ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants will remain in place until at least 2022, an “improvement plan” issued by Priti Patel suggests.

The home secretary was told to publish a “timely” review of the policy, after the Windrush scandal exposed its devastating effects – a recommendation she accepted in the summer.

But the new document gives no commitment to scrapping any measures, while arguing action has already been taken to ensure such a scandal “never happens again”.

And it hints any legal changes will be delayed, by stating: “Initial analysis of data and evidence on the compliant environment will be completed by autumn 2021.

“Long-term evaluation will be ongoing, and timescales will be determined by the outcomes from the initial analysis.”

This week, ministers ploughed ahead with one of the most controversial measures – the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme, which made landlords responsible for immigration checks – by moving it online.

“Two years on from the Windrush scandal and it appears the Home Secretary is still doing woefully little to right the wrongs that led to it,” said Satbir Singh, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants:

“Priti Patel’s statement speaks of regret and building a more ‘compassionate’ Home Office, while committing to no specific actions which would actually prevent an injustice like Windrush from happening again.”

In April 2018, the Windrush scandal engulfed Theresa May, forcing her to apologise – in front of Commonwealth leaders – for the harsh impact of her policies as home secretary.

British citizens had been deported, detained, sacked from their jobs and made homeless because they could not provide correct documents to employers, landlords and the NHS acting as “de facto border guards”.

Back in July, in a Commons statement, Ms Patel had promised “sweeping reforms” to the culture and working practices in the much-criticised Home Office.

"I have tasked my officials to undertake a full evaluation of the compliant environment policy and measures, individually and cumulatively, to make sure the crucial balance is right,” she told MPs.

Pledging that immigration and nationality laws would be made “fit for purpose”, she vowed: “Have no doubt, where we find problems, I will seek to fix them.”

The ‘lessons learned’ review, carried out by Wendy Williams, had demanded an evaluation of each measure to assess “whether they are effective and proportionate in meeting their stated aim, given the risks inherent in the policy”.

But the “improvement plan” now argues better “decision-making and the introduction of new safeguards in our data-sharing processes” means another Windrush has already been prevented.

On ‘Right to Rent’ and the similar ‘Right to Work’ scheme, where employers carry out checks, it points to better information on government websites.

All Home Office staff will be trained on race history in the UK, including Britain's colonial past, the history of black Britons and migration.

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